Premier League title challenge takes time

Frank Lampard has played down Chelsea‘s chances of winning the Premier League despite spending more than £200 million on six new signings this summer.

Chelsea kick off their campaign with a trip to Brighton on Monday night aiming to improve on last season’s fourth-place finish, which saw them end 33 points behind champions Liverpool and 25 adrift of Manchester City.

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But while many clubs have adopted a cautious approach to the market as the sport adjusts to the financial impacts of COVID-19, Chelsea have spent big to acquire Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz.

Sources have told ESPN they are also in talks with Rennes over signing goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and are keeping tabs on West Ham midfielder Declan Rice — continuing an aggressive approach which prompted Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp to claim the Reds cannot behave like Chelsea in the market because they are not “owned by countries [or] oligarchs.”

Asked whether Chelsea were now under increased pressure to challenge for the title after a year hampered by the FIFA transfer ban, Lampard said: “I understand that and I hope that Chelsea fans are excited.

“I’m not going to lie: we’ve brought in what we feel are a high level of player that’s going to improve our squad. At the same time, I also know what it takes to win Premier Leagues and I know that as a player.

“If you look at the teams that have dominated in recent years, in particular Liverpool and Manchester City, they are a story that has run over a few years. It has been at their own pace at different times, in terms of recruitment, coaching and improvement off the pitch as it relates to the pitch.

“It is not a simple story that bringing in players must win you the league. It doesn’t work that way. We hope we will improve. I know the expectations will be there, I won’t hide away from that. My expectations are on a different level from last year because of the different situation. So we want to improve but we won’t jump too far ahead of ourselves.”

Lampard’s hopes of getting off to a winning start at the Amex Stadium are complicated by a knee injury Ziyech sustained in a friendly against Brighton earlier this month.

Silva and Chilwell are also short of match fitness but Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta could return having both suffered hamstring problems in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.

“I’m certainly very happy to welcome both back,” Lampard added. “They both trained. Yesterday was their first day fully training with the team so they are in contention but I have to be careful, I have a squad to pick from.

“But the way they are training and the attitude they have come back with, it looks like they are over those injuries and I just have to make sure I manage them both back in the right way.”

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